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Wishes and hypotheses

Level: intermediate

Wishes

We use the verb wish or the phrase if only to talk about things which we want but which are not possible:

I wish I could see you next week.
If only we could stop for a drink.
I wish we had a bigger house.
They are always busy. If only they had more time.
John was very lazy at school. Now he wishes he had worked harder.

We use wish and if only with past tense forms:

  • We use past tense modals would and could to talk about wishes for the future:

I don't like my work. I wish I could get a better job.
That's a dreadful noise. I wish it would stop.
I always have to get home early. If only my parents would let me stay out later.

I don't like this place. I wish I lived somewhere more interesting.
These seats are very uncomfortable. I wish we were travelling first class.
I wish I was taller.
John wishes he wasn't so busy.
I'm freezing. If only it wasn't so cold.

  • After I/he/she/it, we can use were instead of was:

I wish I was/were taller.
John wishes he wasn't/weren't so busy.
I'm freezing. If only it wasn't/weren't so cold.

  • We use the past perfect to talk about wishes for the past:

I wish I had worked harder when I was at school.
Mary wishes she had listened to what her mother told her.
I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month.

Wishes 1

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Wishes 2

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Hypotheses (things we imagine)

Expressions

When we are talking about hypotheses, we use expressions like:

what if ... ? in case suppose (that) supposing (that) imagine (if/that)

We use these expressions:

We should phone them in case they are lost.
Those steps are dangerous. Suppose someone has an accident.

Imagine you won the lottery. What would you do with the money?
What if he lost his job? What would happen then?

Suppose you hadn't passed your exams. What would you have done?
What if he had lost his job? What would his wife have said?

Modal verbs

We use modals would and could for a hypothesis about the present or future:

We can't all stay in a hotel. It would be very expensive.
Drive carefully or you could have an accident.

We use would in the main clause and the past tense in a subordinate clause for a hypothesis about the present or future:

I would always help someone who really needed help.
I would always help someone if they really needed it.

We use modals with have to talk about something that did not happen in the past:

I didn't see Mary, or I might have spoken to her.
It's a pity Jack wasn't at the party. He would have enjoyed it.
Why didn't you ask me? I could have told you the answer.

We use would have in the main clause and the past perfect in a subordinate clause to talk about something that did not happen in the past:

I would have helped anyone who had asked me.
I would have helped you if you had asked me.

Hypotheses 1

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Hypotheses 2

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Comments

Hi, I'm writing this comment because I've got some doubts about how to use "would" when I am talking about wishes. In this sentence for example: "I have to work on Sunday. I wish I didn't have to work on Sunday" could I use "would" instead of "didn't" as I am wishing something for the future?. The sentence would be: "I wish I wouldn't have to work on Sunday".
I would be grateful if you could help me.

Hello Rut,

You can indeed use 'would' in a clause after the verb 'wish' to say that you're not happy that something will not happen, but normally the subject of 'would' is a subject that is not the speaker. In other words, 'I wish I would (or wouldn't) ...' is not typically used, but 'I wish you/he/it (any subject except 'I') would' is correct and in fact quite common.

So 'I wish I wouldn't have to work on Sunday' sounds strange, but you could say 'I wish my boss would let me take Sunday off', or of course what you originally wrote, 'I wish I didn't have to work on Sunday'.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello All,

i want clarification about hypothesis usage.i have written two sentence,is it correct or not

a) if i wasn't footballer what i would be done
b) if i wasn't footballer what i would have done

plz explain me what is the different btw above sentence

Hello Sebanabc123,

The correct forms are:

If I wasn't a footballer what would I do?

If i wasn't a footballer what would I have done?

Both sentences assume that the speaker is a footballer, and imagine an alternative (a hypothetical alternative). The first sentence asks about a hypothetical present - what would I do now (instead of being a footballer). The second sentence asks about a hypothetical past - what would I have done in the past (if the option of being a footballer was not available).

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

The task is great. Yet I guess it's easier for students to understand if one consider this:

- WISH + SUBJECT + SIMPLE PAST = talking about complaints or regrets in the present;
- WISH + SUBJECT + WOULD + BASE FORM = talking about complaints when you want someone to do something for you;
- WISH + SUBJECT + PAST PERFECT = talking about complaints or regrets in the past.

Hello Team,

Could you please explain the difference between these sentences.

1. I supposed to be at station by three o'clock.

2. I should be at station by three o'clock.

Both sentences give same information about when 'subject = I' arrives at station(i.e., tells about future). Is there any nuance between them?

Thanks!

Hello Eng.Learner,

'be supposed to' is used to say speak about what we have to do according to some set of rules, or to indicate what we expect to happen. 'should' can also be used to talk about the same kind of obligation or expectation, but has a much wider range of uses. What they mean in your sentences really depends on the context in which they are used, but in general 1 is likely to be about rules (e.g. my train ticket says I must be there at that time) and 2 might reflect a more personal decision (e.g. I like to be early for departures, therefore I've decided I want to be there at that time).

By the way, sentence 1 is not grammatically correct - it should say 'I'm supposed to be...'

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Eng.Learner,

In that context, both sentences (I'm supposed to arrive / I should arrive) would be correct and would mean the same thing.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hypothesis
1- we should buy ready food , in case my mother don't cook the lunch.
2-we should buy ready food , in case my mother didn't cook the lunch.
please cofirm my understanding
A) I suggest that to buy cooked food in both sentences
B) the Probability of that my mother will cook the lunch
In sentence 1, the percintage of the Probability is high
In sentence 2, the percintage of the Probability is very low or 0%
may you confirm my Understanding or write accordingly

Hello Aljefri,

The two sentences should be a little different:

1 - We should buy a ready-made meal, in case my mother doesn't cook lunch.

2 - we should buy a ready-made meal, in case my mother didn't cook lunch.

The difference here is not probability, but time. In the first sentence the cooking will or will not take place in the future - the time for cooking has not yet come. In the second sentence the cooking has or has not already taken place, though you do not yet know the outcome.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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